Students from all over the world are choosing Tsinghua University in China to study business journalism. For these international students, their motivations are twofold: to study at one of the top universities in the world and to learn about Chinese culture.
Known as “the United Nations of journalism education,” the Global Business Journalism (GBJ) Program at Tsinghua University has taught students from 67 different countries, as varied as Zimbabwe, Poland, and Fiji, since it was founded in 2007. It was China’s first English language journalism master’s program, and it remains also the only business journalism master's program on the Chinese mainland.
Aside from studying at a prestigious school, current students of the GBJ program consider the professors as the biggest assets to their education. Professor Hang Min and Professor Richard Dunham, co-Directors of the GBJ program, both have impressive accolades that attract students to apply. To name a few, Professor Hang has been interviewed on numerous platforms such as CCTV, and Professor Dunham has interviewed former U.S. presidents and heads of state from around the world.
“From the beginning, this selective program has remained small so its students can get personal attention from the faculty and staff,” Professor Dunham said. Every year, the GBJ program enrolls around 15 to 20 international students to embark on a two-year journey.
The program is run by scholars with vast experience in the areas sought by incoming students. Hang is a full professor in media management and economics. She holds a doctoral degree in Business Administration from Jonkoping University and a master's degree in European Business Administration and Business Law from Lund University, Sweden.
Professor Hang believes that one of the strengths of the GBJ program is its ability to evolve and adapt the courses and resources offered to students to the needs of the times. “At the very beginning, we have developed a set of courses such as economics and accounting basics for journalists, business reporting and writing skills. However, journalists' skill sets have changed a lot since the program was founded. So, we develop new courses as new media skills, modern media reporting, data mining, and data analysis,” Hang added.
For example, Professor Dunham teaches “Basic News Writing,” which is a class that is highly beneficial to non-native English speakers. Non-native speakers are always the majority among GBJ students since the program was founded. “They may speak English, educated in English, but not professional in English,” said Professor Dunham. He highlights the importance of “practice, practice, practice” in English for both international and Chinese students who take the news writing course.
At the same time, he adds that it is not necessary to come into the program with knowledge about business, economics, or journalism. “Because we have enough courses and we can teach you,” said Dunham, “What you need is English language proficiency, curiosity, intelligence, and a real motivation to learn.”
As the world becomes more connected and globally driven, traditional career paths in journalism are also shifting. “The professors and I have made our efforts to improve the program,” Professor Hang noted.
Faculty members, including Bloomberg News editor-at-large Lee Miller, provide students with experience from industry practitioners and top scholars. Dunham points out two things the program teaches contributing to students' success. The first is analytical skills because the ability to express oneself clearly is important in many fields, even other than business journalism. Professor Dunham believes the courses are “invaluable” for various careers like technology, finance, and diplomacy.
The second is practical skills. Except from improving writing ability, the courses add to better understanding of China and the global economy. To make the world “understand the way China works” is also part of the goal.
Professor Dunham once shared his experience of an “exciting get-together” on WeChat. Four of his former students, including one then-undergraduate and one American working for Huawei, celebrated his birthday in New York City. “It’s really rewarding to see their success,” Professor Dunham said, “We’re a big, scrolling family.”
The GBJ program also aims to equip international students with a global mindset and digital acumen. Sangeet Sangroula, an alumni from Nepal who graduated in 2020, believes that studying together with classmates from different continents and engaging in discussions on a wide range of topics improved his understanding of the world. He described the GBJ program as practical and helpful,“It immensely improved my skills to writing for multimedia... I learned a lot of basic things about the economy, business, and all this financial world.”
Current students also have similar motivations for joining the GBJ program. Rida Wang, a first-year GBJ student, and Katherin Thouvenin, a second-year GBJ student, both said they wanted to study at a Chinese university to learn about global business and to better understand Chinese culture.
Wang said she was looking for a top program that catered to her multicultural background as a Chinese Canadian. She explained that she was born in China but left at a young age to go to Canada. Years later, she studied business for her undergraduate degree and had a yearlong experience as a part-time news anchor.
“I thought to continue my studies in this field [business journalism] to get a better understanding of it and build a foundation,” said Wang. “Business journalism is the perfect major because it combines my two interests as well as the GBJ program connects to my home country.”
Thouvenin also expressed similar reasons for attending the GBJ program. Thouvenin, who received a degree in Business Administration in France, wanted to further her studies in business and use her business mind in journalism. She also was drawn to Chinese culture, saying it was one of the main reasons for her choice.
“I believe business journalism is the best choice to follow after that [university] and also because I have never approached the Chinese environment so I thought that getting a master’s in China would allow me to understand Chinese society and how the educational field is,” said Thouvenin, “I also wanted to destroy some of the rumors and clichés foreigners might have about China before going into China.”